Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Door Closes

Take time to walk the path!
I’ve taken another week off from the blog, because I’ve reached a turning point.  I felt the need to stop and actually notice the turn happening, instead of letting it rush by in a flurry of activity. 

You see, for the last five years, I’ve been a teacher.  During the final year of my bachelor’s degree, I taught at the small high school attached to my college.  Then I came home and was almost immediately offered a job at the girls’ school where I was educated.  Out of a sense of paying back what I’d been given, I decided to take the job.  

I really love teaching.  There is something incredibly rewarding about opening young minds to the endless possibilities of knowledge.  However, two things had been slowly wearing down my enthusiasm over the past four years.  

First of all, due to the way the school is set up, the teachers are allowed to choose what subject they wish to teach, more or less, but the administration chooses what level.  Thus, if they need help in 5th grade English, and you’re an English teacher, you work in 5th grade.  If they also need help in 12th grade English, you work there too.  In many ways this system is very positive, since the teachers  end up well-rounded and experienced. 

On the other hand, it cannot be denied that most teachers are cut out for handling certain age levels and not others.  My strength is with high school students.  I sympathize with their growing pains and I find their budding personalities extremely interesting.  Middle schoolers are not quite so charming.  Individually a 12 or 13 year old girl may be delightful, but get her and 20 of her peers together and suddenly the delight transforms to a headache - at least for me. 

I’ve slowly been assigned more and more classes in middle school , until half my work load came from that level.  I can tell you the headache was definitely present.  I liked the girls, but found it so frustrating to deal with their continual distraction.  I don’t blame them for it (I remember being 13, too, and thinking Latin grammar was a waste of time), but the attitude still made me want to scream. 

I was so tense because of it all that by my spring vacation this year, I was continually testy and emotional.  I didn’t really realize the cause, though.  I’ve gotten so used to teaching, that it seemed inevitable to go on.  A friend of mine brought me to my senses though.  I was ranting to him – yet again – when suddenly, speaking with the voice of reason, he said, “Have you thought about not going back next year?” 

It was as though a light suddenly turned on in my head.

Sometimes another person needs to step into a situation in order to provide the catalyst that can resolve it.  That is exactly what this friend of mine did.  I knew as soon as he asked the question that I had my solution.  I would take a break from teaching, recover my equilibrium, do something new and, by losing hours of grading and preparation, gain time to advance further on my writing.  I’ve found a new job since then, and I’m excited to start it in July, after a few weeks of recuperation from the school year. 

That’s not to say that the end of my present career as a teacher isn’t sad.  I have mixed feelings, as always happens when a good thing comes to a close.  It was sad to say goodbye to all my students – even the middle school girls, who like me at the same time as they drive me crazy.  I think in some way I’ll always be a teacher (my new job is at a homeschooling corporation!), but now I need to pursue teaching through other paths. 

That brings me to the other part of working at a school which I find frustrating.  Besides the problem with age levels, I also prefer a holistic style of teaching.  Of course I think that children should learn grammar, mathematics, languages and other technical subjects.  At the same time, however, I think that the best kind of education is gained when conversation between teachers and students wanders wherever it wants to go and leads to discoveries and connections which could not otherwise have been made. 

An appealing door to walk through!
As school wraps up each year, I end up having such discussions in English class.  We’ve finished the curriculum and so for a few days we talk about everything important, from writing style to autism to quantum mechanics.  The girls have fun; I have fun:  it’s the best of all possible classes. 

Since this is my preference as a teacher, for now at least I’m going to pursue that style of education.  I’m going to work as a tutor this summer, on top of my new job, and I know I’ll enjoy the freedom for discussion which comes from one-on-one interactions with students. 

Even though one important part of my life is coming to end, therefore, I feel pretty positive about the next that’s starting.  I'm closing a door behind me and walking down the hall to find another door.  I’ll be in the same house when I open it, but hopefully in a room which suits me better.

1 comment:

  1. Best of luck to you in everything you do. I'm going to have a different door - sort of this fall, when the summer is through, having two little ones to care for when my Daughter-in-law and son return to their jobs. As our grandson will become a big brother in July. That will change my routine yet again. :)

    Cheers to you and thanks for your visits.